Coast Guard, partner agencies identify mysterious sheen in Florida Keys as organic matter, not oil

Algae near Key West, Fla. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

KEY WEST, Fla. – The Coast Guard, in conjunction with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, have confirmed that numerous reports over the weekend of a mysterious mile-long sheen in the Atlantic Ocean off Key West was caused by an organic material and not oil.

Samples of the material provided by one of the reporting parties was taken to Mote Marine Laboratory in Summerland Key, Fla., for analysis and identified by a staff biologist for the laboratory, as the Trichodesmium.

Trichodesmium is a marine cyanobacterium found worldwide in surface waters of tropical and subtropical oceans, including the Gulf of Mexico. Trichodesmium blooms have a unique sweet smell when they decay, and large blooms can turn the water red or pink when stressed cells leach out water-soluble accessory pigments.

Trichodesmium blooms in the Gulf are not harmful to humans, just aesthetically displeasing.

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